3-20-12. Judges 10:1-18. Put Away False”gods” And Taste God’s Compassion

Put Away False”gods” And Taste God’s Compassion

Judges 10:1-18 Lesson 12
Key verse 10: 15-16

Kevin Jesmer NIU UBF 5-20-12

“But the Israelites said to the LORD, “We have sinned. Do with us whatever you think best, but please rescue us now.” 16 Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the LORD. And he could bear Israel’s misery no longer.”

After a time of civil unrest the times became very dark for the people of Israel. This time, the real enemy was not the Canaanites. This time, their suffering was a byproduct of their own internal strife. Crippled by the damage cause by one of their own son’s, Israel was overcome by the Canaanite culture and religion. Once again, they forsook the Lord and worshiped the false gods of the nations around them. God, in his great compassion, raised up Tola, and then Jair, to save his people. After 45 of leadership provided by these two judges, the Israelites again drifted away from God. The Lord became very angry with his holy and righteous anger and allowed the Philistines and the Ammonites to shatter and crush Israel. He allowed all this to happen, because he wanted to lead his people to repentance. And his plan worked, for after 18 years of suffering, the Israelites repented and cried out to the Lord for help. When they confessed their sins, got rid of foreign gods and pled to God for his mercy, he relented for he couldn’t bear to see his people’s misery any longer. His people were filled with a new spirit. Through a study of this passage may we see the point of God’s “tough” love. May we see God’s compassion. May we see clearly the way of salvation, which is to confess, cry out to Jesus, repent practically, placing all of our hope and trust in Jesus Christ. Jesus hears our cries and will always come to help in the best possible way. This is the way to be saved.

Part 1: God’s “Tough” Love (1-9)

Their enemy came from within. Verse 1a reads, “After the time of Abimelech.” If you recall the message from a few weeks ago, Abimelech was the son of Gideon. During “the time Abimelech” the people suffered greatly from civil strife. He was a megalomaniac and killed his 69 half brothers (one escaped) in order to gain control of the nation of Israel and enjoy his position. God was not pleased with this. Judges 9:56 reads, “Thus God repaid the wickedness that Abimelech had done to his father by murdering his seventy brothers.” Israelite townships were pitted against each other. There was lots of death and war and with these came fear and sorrow. For some in Israel it was like living among the drug Lords in some Latin American countries. What a terrible time it was. This teaches us that our greatest enemy can be the enemy within…among us and within ourselves.

First, there is strife from among us. For us this means, Christian against Christian. Most times it is not the unbelieving world persecuting us, for they do not care about it. They are too busy perusing the things of this world. It is Christians persecuting other Christians. Therefore the strife is caused from within the Body of Christ. We need to be united as Christians. Luke 9:49-50 the disciples came to Jesus and said, “’Master,….we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” 50 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.’” In John 17: 20-21, Jesus prays for the unity of all Christians. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” We must realize that our own Christian world is but a “postage stamp” of the entire Christian community. We can not all be the same. We do not all have the same calling nor the same emphasis in ministry. Instead of fighting each other, why not shepherd and mentor one another unto maturity, for the glory of God?
Second, the strife we experience comes from within us. The Apostle James said in James 4:1. “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” Our sinful desires and worldly desires battle within us and threaten to bring us down, separating us from each other and from our God. We must be wary of this and be vigilant in our hearts to keep our hearts devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ.

God heard their prayers and had mercy on his people. He raised up for them a Judge. Look at verse 1b-2, “…Tola son of Puah, the son of Dodo, rose to save Israel. He lived in Shamir, in the hill country of Ephraim. 2 He led Israel twenty-three years; then he died, and was buried in Shamir.” There is not much written about Tola. But we know one important fact, with the help of the Lord, he rose to challenge to save Israel. He led his people for 23 years and then he died. He was a good and faithful leader who served God’s purpose on his life. Tola means “grub” or “worm”. This is not a very glorious name. Why could it not have been a glorious name such as, “He will conquer in the name of the Lord!”? He was a great leader, but at the same time an ordinary leader.

The point is that God does great things through ordinary people. We all want to do something glorious, like pastoring a mega church, writing popular books, and sitting at the helm of several community organizations. Within the church, we want the important positions. In short, we want our names remembered for the great things we do, even if we do not make the sacrifices to become great. But most times God works through the ordinary. He is glorified when ordinary people stand up in faith and serve their purpose in their generation. We must accept this and stop with our delusions of grandeur and strive to be content and happy in Jesus, finding our calling and serve it well. This can be our greatness in Jesus.

Next is Jair. Look at verse 3-5, “He was followed by Jair of Gilead, who led Israel twenty-two years. 4 He had thirty sons, who rode thirty donkeys. They controlled thirty towns in Gilead, which to this day are called Havvoth Jair. 5 When Jair died, he was buried in Kamon.” This is a case when God raises up a person who has a measure of human greatness. Who was this Jair? His name means “Enlightened.” He had 30 sons (with probably as many daughters). His sons were great men. They all rode on donkeys which means that they were rich. They were the mayors of 30 towns. Their cities formed a confederation of cities that co-operated together. They were good shepherds of their people. The citizens were blessed because of their leadership. The sons could lead the thirty cities because Jair set a good example of leadership as they were growing up. Jair was not nepotistic. None of his boys rose to be the next judge after him. (unlike some despotic rulers we see today in the news.)

I can see here that God can also work through those who are rich and who have positions of influence. The Bible teaches us that being rich is not bad in and of itself. It is the love of money that is the root of all kinds of evil. (1 Tim 6:9-11) There is a danger however, that if we are pursuing riches and human glory, we will forsake Jesus and his calling on our lives. (Mtt 19:23-25). Jesus urges us to us human wealth to make friends in the Lord. (Lk 16:9) Abraham and David, to name a few, were very wealthy, but yet they served the Lord in their generation. (Act 13:36) If it God’s purpose to bless you with wealth and human glory, then use it all for the glory of God, to serve his purpose in your generation.

God blessed the leadership of Tola and Jair. Together they led the people of God forty five years. God’s people enjoyed a time peace and prosperity. But after two generations passed, the ancient Israelites forgot the grace of God and drifted away once again. Look at verse 6, “Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD. They served the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites and the gods of the Philistines. And because the Israelites forsook the LORD and no longer served him, “ Some of the gods that they served were Baal, and Ashteroth. The gods of Aram and Sidon were much the same as these. The gods of Moab and Ammon were Chemosh and Molech. The Philistine gods were Dagon, Ashtoreth, Asherah and Baal-Zebul. (Life Application Bible). For the life of me, I can not figure out why these people would forsake the worship of the one, true and holy God for these false gods. It was because of their allure. They promised bountiful harvests, fertility, and the celebrations were very fun and yet very sinful. They appealed the sinful nature of the people. There were huge festivals, orgies, prostitution and also child sacrifice. Also the Israelites could enjoy acceptance by the surrounding nations if they worshipped their gods. It could have brought economic opportunities and alliances. What we won’t subject ourselves to for some practical benefits in this life!

God was not pleased with his peoples’ unfaithfulness. Look at verse 7-9, “he became angry with them. He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and the Ammonites, 8 who that year shattered and crushed them. For eighteen years they oppressed all the Israelites on the east side of the Jordan in Gilead, the land of the Amorites. 9 The Ammonites also crossed the Jordan to fight against Judah, Benjamin and the house of Ephraim; and Israel was in great distress.” This was God’s holy and righteous anger. And who can blame God for being angry? They forsook the grace of God had broken their covenant relationship with their God. After all God had done for them, how could they turn their backs on him? It was totally unreasonable. (But it happens.)

They suffered so much because of the sin of their unfaithfulness. There are words in these verses like, “he sold them” (possible reference to slavery), shattered, crushed, oppressed for 18 years, fight, great distress. Though Bible says that God was angry with them, it does not mean that he stopped loving them. God is love. But there was nothing else that God could do. They pushed his hand. This was suffering created by their own waywardness. God had to do something for they were his own people, and so he loved them with his “tough love.” When we become wayward and drift away from the Lord, pursuing and serving the idols of this land, we will be shattered, crushed, oppressed for decades, always fighting, and in great distress for decades. Don’t blame God. God loves you! He always has and he always will! We need to repent and turn our hearts to the Lord and renew our relationship with God. But how? This brings us to part ll.

Part ll: Israel Cries Out To The Lord (10-18)

God’s “tough love” worked. Look at verse 10, “10 Then the Israelites cried out to the LORD, “We have sinned against you, forsaking our God and serving the Baals.” The people were under great duress. It took a while, but eventually they cried out to the Lord in repentance. This is always the best response, to cry out to the Lord in humble repentance. Most of the time we know where we are left wanting spiritually. We need to confess our sins and repent. There are times when we don’t even know what we are repenting for. We know that we are just not right with God. Repent anyway! In the Catholic Mass we used to ask the Lord to forgive us for what we have done and what we have failed to do. Confessing our sins is very healthy spiritually. James tells us to confess our sins to one another so that we can pray for each other. (James 5:15-16) Peter urged the Jews in the temple to repent of their sins so that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. (Acts 3:19) Repentance is not a bad word. It is a refreshing word and opens the way to a new beginning with a fresh new start and a glorious new hope.

God did not just say, “Oh that’s OK. Don’t worry about it.” He can’t just let it drop that easily. He is God. He is holy and righteous. He wanted to make this a teaching moment. He reinforced his grace in their hearts. Look at verses 11-13, “The LORD replied, ‘When the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines,12 the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites[f] oppressed you and you cried to me for help, did I not save you from their hands? 13 But you have forsaken me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you.” The grace of God to them was undeniable. Out of all the people in the world they were so blessed. God rescued them again and again, to bring them out of their slavery and make them into a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (Ex 19:6) After reminding them of his grace he also reminded them of their sin. They once served God by now they forsook the Lord and serve others gods.” They needed to hear it. Fact was fact.

God even challenged them to go their false gods and see if they can rescue them. Look at verse 14, “Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble! ” It was these same gods that got them into trouble in the first place. If they thought deeply and saw where these false gods had gotten them, they would never turn to them again. The same goes for us today. Where did the things we have worshipped and served get us? A life time of oppression? For the first 22 years of my life I did not know Jesus. I worshipped the gods of western culture, money, success, pleasure seeking, comfort and security, etc. Worshipping and serving these gods only brought me oppression, sorrow and despair. These false gods were getting me “nowhere” fast. They were leading me away from Jesus and towards eternal condemnation. Billions are following the same path I was on. These facts may be hard to swallow. They may painful to listen to. But if they are accepted and people repent and seek the Lord’s forgiveness, then these words are life-giving. Jesus saved us from so much. Through his suffering and death on the cross, we are forgiven and receive the forgiveness of our sins. We become children of God with a great inheritance and great hope. Jesus protects our hearts and guides us every step of the way. His grace is abundant.

God comes to us today and urges us to accept his grace newly in our hearts. He wants us to confess our sins and accept his total and complete forgiveness. He wants us to live as forgiven sinners, rededicating our lives to him and living as forgiven sinners. This means sharing that same grace with others.
The Israelites responded very well. Look at verses 15-16, “But the Israelites said to the LORD, ‘We have sinned. Do with us whatever you think best, but please rescue us now.’ 16 Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the LORD. And he could bear Israel’s misery no longer.” They sincerely repented and there was a wonderful work of the Holy Spirit among them. They got rid of their false gods and worshipped The God of the Bible anew. Times of refreshing came upon them. Look at verses 17-18, “When the Ammonites were called to arms and camped in Gilead, the Israelites assembled and camped at Mizpah. 18 The leaders of the people of Gilead said to each other, “Whoever will launch the attack against the Ammonites will be the head of all those living in Gilead.” Their sins had been dragging them down. They were powerless and distressed and depressed. But now they were full of a fighting spirit. They were full of passion. It is the fruit of repentance, forgiveness and grace. We need a new life. We need a new passion and zeal. We need times of refreshing. The answer is very simple…Cry out to the Lord, confess your sins, repent and get rid of all your “foreign gods”. Then accept the complete forgiveness of God by faith. Your heart will be set free and your life will be changed.

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